FWC: Venice man faces felony charges for destroying sea turtle nest

After nearly 10 months, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says it has located and charged a man they say was caught on camera disturbing a sea turtle nest in Nokomis Beach State Park. 

FWC officers say they received a call on August 18, 2022, from a person saying they had video of a man digging inside a marked turtle nest site. Though the person in question was known to the caller, FWC was unable to locate the suspect for months. 

Earlier this month, an investigating officer found Nathan John Lechner, 22, in a neighboring county and charged him with a third-degree felony for the destruction and molestation of a sea turtle nest.
According to FWC, Florida’s sandy beaches provide important spring and summer nesting habitat for several species of federally threatened and endangered sea turtles, including loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtles, with occasional nesting by federally endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

READ: 10 cold, stunned sea turtles found in Cape Cod Bay receiving care at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Getting too close (50 feet or less) to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete nesting. All species of sea turtles and their nests are protected and should not be disturbed. It is illegal to harm, harass or take nesting sea turtles, their eggs, and hatchlings.

The public can report anyone disturbing a sea turtle or nest, as well as sea turtles that are sick, injured, entangled, or dead by contacting the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline by texting 847411 with the keyword "FWC" followed by the location and any information you can about the violation, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or submit a tip online at myfwc.com/contact/wildlife-alert/